- Year 2016
- NSF Noyce Award # 1136392
- First Name Sandra
- Last Name Madden
- Discipline Mathematics
Stephen Schneider, UMass Amherst, firstname.lastname@example.org;
Paula Rees, UMass Amherst, email@example.com
Sandra Madden, UMass Amherst, firstname.lastname@example.org
Kyle Lauchmen, Adams City High, Commerce City, CO, email@example.com
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates for 2009, 39.2% of school-age children live below the poverty line in the Holyoke School district, and 32.3% in the Springfield school district -the first and second poorest of the 304 school districts in the state (U.S. Census Data, 2010). These numbers do not reflect the impact of the recent economic crisis, or the economic suffering of families whose incomes are above the federal limit. A large proportion of school children in Springfield (74.9%) and Holyoke (69.1%) receive free lunch. Poverty in the Pioneer Valley is not confined to urban centers. The Greenfield school district (20.6%) and Mahar (Orange) school district (17.2%) also report significant percentages of school-age children living in poverty- 11th and 23rd in the state, respectively. Greenfield Public Schools, in Franklin County, had 54% of its students receiving free lunch in 2009-2010.
These districts experience the same issues of retention and attrition of high quality teachers that are experienced nationally. Ingersoll (2007) notes that 40-50% of teachers leave after their first year and that this attrition is due, in part, to lack of support. Importantly, in urban and rural districts, the turnover is more common, has long-term consequences for students, and comes at great costs to districts. The National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (NCATF) (www.ncatf.org) calculations suggests that urban districts spend upwards of $15,000 for each lost teacher per year, and rural districts upwards of $4,000 per lost teacher each year. In addition, there is a cost to student learning as well. The same report suggests a significant correlation between low performance, high poverty, and teacher turnover.
These districts are characterized by low student achievement on high stakes state exams, and lesson observations suggest that student opportunity to learn mathematics and science content is diminished by issues of lesson implementation. There is more to be done in preparing and supporting teachers to teach students in these contexts.
The project benefits multiple layers in the western Massachusetts area. By building the capacity of mathematics and science teachers to facilitate high quality, ambitious learning environments and practices, our work benefits teachers, their students, their schools and their communities. We also increase the number of high quality placements for future STEM teachers in these high need schools.
Goals for the project include:
1) Provide inservice secondary mathematics and science teachers (MTFs) with professional development in effective inquiry-, place-based, and culturally responsive instructional practices and leadership and mentoring skills.
2) In collaboration with MTFs and partnership schools, revise and implement an initial licensure teacher program for secondary mathematics and science teachers in order to better ensure their retention in the profession and successful instruction.
3) Develop virtual and face-to-face communities of practice to provide MTFs, TFs and other teachers with support for effective instruction and to lessen the traditional isolation of teachers.
4) Develop mathematics and science content courses to improve teacher content knowledge for teaching.
STEM Teaching and Learning through Communities’ responds to the critical need for middle and high school teachers of science and mathematics through a collaboration between the UMA Department of Teacher Education and Curriculum Studies (TECS), the College of Natural Sciences (CNS) and College of Engineering (COE), local high-need middle and high schools in the Pioneer Valley of western Massachusetts (Springfield Public Schools, Holyoke Public Schools, Greenfield Public Schools and Mahar Regional School), and the Hitchcock Center for the Environment, a nonprofit organization focused on the professional development of teachers and the education of youth in the sciences. We seek to encourage talented science and mathematics students and professionals to pursue teaching careers and develop a long-term commitment to teaching students in high needs secondary schools. We envision a program that supports a dynamic and interactive community of 20 Master Teacher Fellows (MTFs) and 20 Teacher Fellows (TFs) with professional development, community support, licensure, graduate degrees/certificates and salary supplements while they teach in high needs schools. S2TLC is designed to: 1) Provide inservice secondary mathematics and science teachers (MTFs) with professional development in effective inquiry-, place-based, and culturally responsive instructional practices and leadership and mentoring skills; 2) In collaboration with MTFs and partnership schools, revise and implement an initial licensure teacher program for secondary mathematics and science teachers in order to better ensure their retention in the profession and successful instruction; 3) Develop virtual and face-to-face communities of practice to provide MTFs, TFs and other teachers with support for effective instruction and to lessen the traditional isolation of classroom teachers; 4) Develop mathematics and science content courses that integrate the use of cognitive technological tools to facilitate learning.
Key activities include:
1) Coursework for Master’s degrees
; 2) Day long school year and week long summer institutes
; 3) F2F and Virtual Communities of Practice; 4) MTF Two year Projects; 5) Professional licensure courses
; and 6) Summer research experiences for teachers.
Our school and community partnerships provide a strong foundation for our NCATE-approved initial and advanced licensure programs in secondary education. Both the MTF and TF aspects of the S2TLC project are grounded in theory and practice that supports 1) shared learning, 2) leadership, 3) challenges to beliefs about science, mathematics, and learning, and 4) attention to the lives of students. These shared visions manifest as research based understandings of: 1) teacher learning, 2) development of communities of practice, 3) engagement of teachers in authentic use of mathematics and science in research, and 4) development of counter-narratives to negative perceptions of low SES and diverse students.
: Consistent with the view of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, we believe:
the education of teachers of mathematics [and science] is an ongoing process. Teachers are in a constant state of “becoming.” Being a teacher implies a dynamic and continuous process of growth that spans a career. Teachers’ growth requires a commitment to professional development aimed at improving their teaching on the basis of increased experience, new knowledge, and awareness of educational reforms. Teachers’ growth potential can be enhanced or limited by the actions of others, including school administrators, educational policymakers, college and university faculty, parents, and the students themselves. (NCTM, 2007, p. 111)
In order to support teachers across their life-long professional learning continuum, we recognize the importance of engineering mathematical and scientific learning experiences with the potential to challenge and support pre-service and in-service teachers’ vision of mathematics and science teaching and learning, especially in light of evolving technologies. Teachers will be engaged in reflection of what constitutes effective learning experiences and teaching practice across all S2TLC MTF/TF experiences.
There is little empirical evidence to suggest the most important components of teacher preparation programs; however, research evidence is beginning to suggest that effective pre-service teacher education programs tend to 1) require significant content courses, 2) carefully apprentice candidates into the work of teaching, 3) provide opportunities for candidates to understand local district curricula, and 4) align grade level intern teaching experiences with future career trajectories (National Academy of Education [NAE], 2009). Consensus is also growing regarding key features of effective professional development for content teaching. These features include: 1) focusing on deepening subject matter knowledge for teaching (Ball, 2000; Ball, Thames, & Phelps, 2008); 2) sustaining long-term learning opportunities; 3) building on teachers’ prior knowledge and connecting to practice readily; 4) actively engaging teachers; and 5) including time for teams of teachers from the same school to collaborate and learn together (NAE, 2009). S2TLC incorporates all of these characteristics into the envisioned MTF/TF experiences because supporting improved content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge, working to build professional learning communities, and developing leaders is extremely complex and requires multiple strategies to support teacher learning (Loucks-Horsley, Love, Stiles, Mundry, & Hewson, 2003).
Communities of Practice (CoPs): Face-to-Face CoPs and Virtual CoP (VCoP)
There is a strong link between mentoring, teacher leadership and teacher retention (Smith & Ingersoll, 2004). Teacher quality is about sustaining and supporting individuals within the field (Ingersoll, 2001) as much as recruiting high quality teachers. Thus, we seek to build and capacity via the establishment of communities of practice (CoP) (Lave & Wenger, 1991) and expand and sustain these communities through networking, creating a virtual community across our region and beyond.
A CoP is a type of network that features “peer-to-peer collaborative activities to build member skills and steward the knowledge assets of organizations and society” (Wenger, McDermott, and Snyder, 2002, p. 239). Our proposal calls for the development of CoPs that provide teachers with knowledge of theory, research and classroom practice and support them as they examine, develop and advance the teaching of science and mathematics (Palinscar, 1998). CoPs are places where teachers come together to: 1) share trials and tribulations related to teaching and learning; 2) promote professional review of literature and debate; 3) investigate the quality of student work for the purposes of improvement; 4) strive to continue to advance the collective activity across disciplines; and 5) reflect on practice alone and with supportive colleagues (Little, 2006). We will develop two types of communities of practice in this project: face-to-face and virtual.
Technological advances have created new forums for such interactions and are the basis of our proposed VCoP. In addition to the opportunities generated by CoPs, a VCoP potentially offers large savings in terms of time, extended access to “human capital” and the associated resources, innovative solutions, and opportunities for leadership development (Woolis, Restler & Thayer, 2008) and can effectively link novice teachers with experienced teachers and teacher educators (Rogoff, 1994; Grossman, Wineburg, & Woolworth, 2001). Challenges include stimulating participation and sustaining interest (Tremblay, 2004). Active stewardship is critical for generating and sustaining functionality and engagement (Wenger, 2005; Kaulback & Bergthodt, 2008; Chiu, Chiu & Chang, 2007; Wasko & Faraj, 2000). Community trust in terms of knowledge and personnel is key (Nichani & Hung, 2002).
Authentic Use of Mathematics and Science in Research
The learning of science and mathematics content “through the perspectives and methods of inquiry” (National Research Council, 1996, p. 59) is important to the professional development of teachers.
Science learning must: Involve teachers in actively investigating phenomena that can be studied scientifically, interpreting results, and making sense of findings consistent with currently accepted scientific understanding (p.59)
All teachers of science [and mathematics] must have a strong, broad base of scientific [and mathematical] knowledge extensive enough for them to: Understand the nature of inquiry, its central role “and how to use the skills and processes of” inquiry. Understand the fundamental facts and concepts in [mathematics and the] major science disciplines. Be able to make conceptual connections within and across science disciplines, as well as to mathematics, technology, and other school subjects. Use scientific [and mathematical] understanding and ability when dealing with personal and societal issues. (p. 59)
To assist us in developing this aspect of the TF/MTF program, we developed content courses for both the TF and MTF participants to be offered beginning in Year 3 of the project. Research experiences and content institutes will also support teachers’ in-depth content knowledge.
Development of Counter-Narratives in High Needs Schools
Our critical inquiry work will be based upon an understanding that in traditionally underserved schools with high poverty rates, the development of teachers must entail an examination and retelling of the narratives of these communities. As Milner (2008) discusses, effective urban educators do not accept the popular deficit models of students, families and communities in urban areas, but challenge these with counter-narratives that build from an awareness of student strengths and possibilities.
The summative evaluation of the previous UMA Noyce STEM Bridge project (Feldman, 2009) indicated that participants’ weakest areas were in understanding cultural differences (the significance of student differences in home experiences, background knowledge, and learning skills), the use of professional judgment to determine instructional adjustments, and the impact of this pedagogical weakness on student learning. Thus, attention to counter-narratives, along with a focus on culturally responsive teaching (Grant & Gillette, 2006) and a sense of duty to the students and community and trust in both (Duncan-Andrade, 2007) will be the foundation from which we build our program. A substantial piece of the Professional Seminars will be devoted to providing and generating models of culturally responsive instruction. The Institutes offered by the Hitchcock Center will focus on connecting instruction with the school communities to foster teacher understanding of the students, their families, and community cultures, resources, issues, and dilemmas.
These four key elements were central to discussions with district partners, along with the review of existing teacher licensure and professional development programs. From these, we designed the S2TLC program that supports both inservice teachers and initial licensure candidates.
Key medium term outcomes of the project are:
For MTFs and TFs
** Teaching practices that are culturally responsive
** Vibrant CoPs
** Improved STEM teacher knowledge for teaching
For MTFs, TFs, and Institutions:
** New models of mentoring and teacher leadership
** High quality STEM teachers attracted to and retained in high needs school districts
** STEM teachers connected to community and UMA resources
We are building toward long term outcomes of
** Reflective communities of practice become a norm for MTFs, TFs and colleagues
** Community adoption of counter- narratives counter to the deficit model
** Contributions to educational knowledge base & literature
** Improved student engagement, retention, and achievement in high need schools
We have already:
** Increased number of high quality STEM teachers for high needs secondary schools
** Supported teachers awareness of and connection to communities in which they teach
** Increased teacher content knowledge
** Developed teacher mentoring and leadership in f2f and VCoP environments
** Strengthened the teacher education program
** Recruited talented STEM teacher candidates
We are continuing to expand the VCoP and F2F CoPs for the project. As we move into year 06, we will be supporting fellows action research projects to continue to build capacity for professional inquiry and practice.
The development of communities of practice within schools and across districts allows for long-term support and mutual mentoring beyond the life of the project and creates a major shift in how teachers of mathematics and the sciences understand and enact their practice. The layers of design reflect a complex view of teacher learning and development, which has the potential to offer new models for teacher education, professional development, school administration, and school-community relationships nationally as well as locally. The sustained, coordinated engagement of community partners in mathematics and science teaching and learning will lead to stronger community support for these studies and to shifts in community perceptions about the potential for students in high-needs schools to achieve in STEM fields. These together will support improved student engagement, retention, and achievement that carries from the school classroom, to the college classroom, and beyond. Faculty, MTFs and TFs will draw from these experiences to articulate theories and practices that contribute to the educational literature. A framework for connections between STEM faculty and public schools will be developed to address the broader impacts of their research and for teachers to connect their students to the work of researchers and to possibilities that surround a college education.
Besides MTFs and TFs who have been directly impacted, their students and communities have also been impacted in ways that vary across schools due to the myriad projects fellows have been pursuing in line with project.